Apple's iCloud punishes you for being a good customer

Apple's iCloud punishes you for being a good customer

Summary: iOS is a great platform that allows you to do serious work, work which fills up your devices—and the iCloud that is an integral part of them—with data. You do this never thinking about the day when you hit the iCloud storage ceiling.

TOPICS: Storage, Apple

A guest post by Kathie Kingsley-Hughes on the limitations of iCloud backup and how this leads to compromises and potential pitfalls down the line.

I've recently maxed the 55GB top tier of iCloud storage plans. I backup several Apple devices to my cloud and I also use it for sharing documents between Apple devices and computers.

Hitting the storage limit for the top tier means that I lose the ability to:

  • Increase iCloud storage: This works fine up to 55GB then that's it folks. No option to pay for more. Why can't I just buy more storage like I can with Dropbox or Amazon? It doesn't have to be "all you can eat," I'm happy to take a "pay as I use" direction.
  • Backup each device to a separate iCloud account: Well sure, I could do this, but it would effectively shut off sharing most iCloud documents between those devices, which is the main benefit of iCloud. Apple only allows one 'main' iCloud account to use Bookmarks, Photostream, Documents and data, Keychain and Find my iPhone. Why can't I sign into one iCloud account for Photostream, Documents and backup and another for Bookmarks or Keychain? After all Apple lets me do this for Notes, Reminders, Calendar and FaceTime.

So we are stuck with these limitations for now. If you have multiple devices and you want to share iCloud data (Keychain, Photostream, iWork documents etc) between them, then you need to be super-picky when managing your data and backups. In essence this means not really making use of iCloud in the way Apple encourage you to do.

Reduce the size of your iCloud backup

One option is to try to reduce the size of your backup. In Settings go to Manage storage > Backup options > Select your device > Choose what you want to backup. There I find my biggest data hog is Photos, so an obvious target for switching off in backup. Of course if I lost my phone, the photos stored on it would be one of the things I miss most, so not an ideal candidate to remove from the backup pool.

Already my backup feels incomplete, and that makes me nervous.

A lot of apps are really just storing the login information so turning off backup for Netflix and Skype aren't going to lose me much except the time it will take to type them in again if I need to restore the backup.

These gained me a few MB, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing.

It just works - and that's the problem

iOS is a great platform that allows you to do serious work, work which fills up your devices—and the iCloud that is an integral part of them—with data. You do this never thinking about the day when you hit the iCloud storage ceiling (throw OS X into that mix and that day will come sooner).

But as soon as you do, you will have some tough choices to make.

For me it was deciding not to backup my photos. It is better to have a partial backup of my device so I at least have a backup of sorts than no backup. Since Photostream keeps a cloud backup of the last 30 days worth of photos I've taken, as long as I remember to connect my device once a month to my computer, I should be fine.

But that manual step goes against the 'It just works' ethos of Apple, and having to do so tarnishes my warm glowing love for all things Apple - especially because they're punishing me for being a good customer and owning lots of their devices, and for using them in the way they want me to use them.  

For a regular user, a compromised backup is a bad thing. In a BYOD scenario, it is wholly uacceptable.

Topics: Storage, Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wow!

    You pay 'HOW MUCH' for Apple's cloud service?

    Where I come from, we call that 'barrelling'. They are bending you over a barrell and having their wicked way with you. The irony is, you're paying them for the honour and then telling us "it just works".

    Ummm, no. No it doesn't.
    • You're not paying them to "bend over"

      you're paying them for storage. This is that thing as "customer wants service, service provider provides service, customer pays service provider", or on its more popular one word variant, "capitalism."

      And the neat thing about capitalism is that there is this thing called "alternatives." Find Apple's prices too high? There's OneDrive, DropDoc, and Google Drive.
      • Alternatives?

        In this case, not really. While there are other, arguably better, cloud storage options available, you're still dealing with a manual backup situation. unless there's some way to get an iPhone to automatically upload backups to OneDrive instead of iCloud that I don't know of.
        • Uhhhhhh

          I have my DB account to automatically upload and store my photos.......
          On my 5S.
      • And price comparison?

        55 GB is $100 per year from Apple

        52GB is $99 per year from Drop Box

        Shock Horror, aren't Apple naughty.

        Yes, Google Drive is cheaper.

        But Google are also going to parse the contents of your Google Drive and use the information to assist their customers (not you, advertisers) in targeting advertising at you.
        Henry 3 Dogg
        • Honestly?

          You think the others don't do this too?

          • Chuckle on.


            I don't believe that any of the companies that are funded by their users, rather than their advertisers, do that.

            Companies generally do what the people paying the bills want.

            Google's and other companies that are primarily advertising funded, do what their advertisers want. Their users are just working material. They really don't matter.

            Apple care about selling their users their next device. Compromising their security would seriously jeopardises that.

            So no, I don't think that Apple scan the data on iCloud and make the content available to anyone who pays them for targeting advertising.

            Making Google the default search engine is about as far as Apple goes in that direction.

            Chuckle as much as you want.
            Henry 3 Dogg
  • You feel for the Apple "You're our BFF" RDF?

    You act as if Apple cares about you as a customer. You're nothing to them but $$$. They may be your BFF but you're not their BFF. The sooner you realize Apple is a business and not some idealistic entity the better off you'll be.
    • Technically that's true of any company

      However, all modern companies use a combination of big data, demographic siloing, and business intelligence in order to offer you a rich facade of engagement, that, if it works, will keep you happy and retain your business long term.

      This is true of everyone else in tech, and, well, everyone else everywhere. That airline I like to fly doesn't technically care about me - but as long as they seem to care about me, that is all that really matters - both to my satisfaction and to their long term retention of me.
      • I didn't say it was exclusive to Apple.

        What is unique to Apple is how their customers have bonded with the company. I have never seen such a rabid customer base to an entity that doesn't give one whit about them.
        • It isn't terribly surprising

          Apple pioneered a more "personal seeming" interaction with their clientele than was the norm in tech. There's no Google person you can talk to if you want to buy a Nexus, or want service on a Nexus.

          There's a call line for Dell (and it is pretty good), but no in person experience to be had.

          The existence of Apple stores, and the workshops, etc. do foster what no doubt is perceived by the user as a more personal interaction with the company. So no, I don't think it should surprise anyone that a stronger bond is formed than with other tech companies. This isn't unlike people who go back to the same car dealership for their next vehicle.

          To some extent, even the car dealer is just working smoke and mirrors - they probably don't have any human memory of you on the next visit to the showroom. But as long as the appearance of it is there, you're happy and they're happy.
          • There's nothing wrong with a great customer experience.

            Just don't be so naive as to think said customer experience translates into their caring about you.
        • exclusive

          Your too young to remember how people bonded to car manufacturers in the 50s and 60s..Ford man, versus a Chevy man... or how people bonded to Snowmobile manufacturers in the 70s, Ski-Doo versus Yamaha and some 120 different brands.. Apple's focus is the user experience, no one else in the computer business does this, so perhaps thats why some of us prefer them Apple to other companies. Why PC users feel a need to put us down...I don't know...seems emotional to me.
    • What a glaring demonstration of economic ignorance.

      Since Apple has to PERSUADE you to give them those $$$ they crave so much, it is in their best interest to make you happy enough to give them those $$$.

      Since you want to keep as much of those $$$ you crave just as much as Apple does, it is in your best interest to be as demanding as possible.

      The end result of this tension is a solution that makes the most people the most happy.

      Adrian is an outlier on that curve (seriously, Adrian, 55 GB of photos?!? That's 20,000+ high-quality Jpeg images), nothing more.
  • Silly

    That's over a $100 per year for 55Gb? Dump the photos nobody wants to see your crap anyway. Unless you are the "worlds most interesting man", and you're not. What kind of a weenie world are we turning into?
    • See the photos

      Sorry, she is talking about backing up her own photos, not sharing them with everybody.

      They may not interest you, but they are her personal photos which mean something to her and she doesn't want to lose them. Cloud storage isn't about sharing, theoretically, it has to do with keeping the data safe in the event that the local copy gets trashed or the device stolen.
  • Agreed

    "Dump the photos nobody wants to see your crap anyway."

    This is not limited to AKH either.
  • Everyone missed one key point.

    And that point is "backup". Apple encourages iCloud for backups. To a lesser extent so does Microsoft with OneDrive and Google with Google Drive. Dropbox and their ilk are different; they are more geared toward cloud storage of files for access from multiple devices and locations. So absolute size isn't as critical.

    Bot all the others let you increase space if you want to pay for it. Apparently Apple is saying "no more, too bad, so sad" here. Which is absolutely nuts on two fronts. First, backups do increase in size as device usage increases (and having incrementals to recover from stupidity is nice too). And as a business, I would want to have the ability to sell someone MORE if they want it. So they struck out TWICE here.

    Now for a file repository a-la Dropbox, that is not a bad amount (unless you are the most interesting man in the world). Music, Apple wants you to use iTunes Match. Photos, cull the herd. Documents, pull them off when no longer needed. But throw in backups and that is where they fail badly. Can you imagine one of the cloud backup services doing that - well, no.

    But Apple encourages using it for backups. Bad move. Backing up a 64GB iPad loaded will get you close to, if not over, that hump in a nanosecond. Oh well.

    Guess they better make that new data center a reality BEFORE they do their spaceship campus. Or so I'd think...
    • And

      they sell devices with 64GB and 128GB of storage now (not including Macs here), which means even if you have just 1 device, you couldn't actually back it up if you buy the top tier...

      The top tier should AT LEAST match the capacity of the largest device they sell.
  • Really odd post

    AKH, I am really surprised a man of ur ilk even relies on third party services for backup. Nearly every IT guy I know runs his own NAS that offers cloud backup and access.

    Additionally as an amateur photog, AKH, I can't imagine how you didn't see this problem long ago? I am not a photog but I create a lot of HD video and uploading all that data to a cloud just isn't possible.

    Cloud services are for people who don't generate a lot of content like the average user who just snaps pics on their phone.